Rosh Hashana is a time of giving. A time to offer a helping hand to those going through extremely difficult times.
Trying to raise a toddler can be challenging for most parents. Trying to raise a toddler with special needs, while enduring ongoing abuse from your husband, would be more than most people could cope with.
This is Hannah's* story.
Hannah and Nathan had been married for three years and had a two-year old son, Benji. It was a rocky relationship and when Nathan lost his job, the tension between them heightened.
To help their financial situation, Hannah agreed to move with Nathan to a rural area of Melbourne. Here, they were going to live in a small unit, together with Nathan’s brother. Hannah hoped that, with a fresh start, Nathan would change his ways and that things would be better between them.
Having lost both her parents by the age of 25, Hannah had no other support and felt she had nothing to lose by moving. She also felt it was important for Benji to have his father around.
Hannah and Nathan’s relationship improved for a short while but this did not last. After a few weeks, it began to worry Hannah that Nathan wasn’t looking for work. He wouldn’t allow her to look for work either, insisting that she stay home and ‘be a good mother.’ He took away all her credit cards and all other access to their savings. He refused to spend money on family necessities and happily spent their savings on online shopping for himself and going out with his brother.
The emotional and financial abuse was just the beginning.
Nathan would buy fast food for himself and force Hannah to sit and watch him eat, giving her nothing. Violent physical abuse towards Hannah became a regular occurrence and Nathan’s brother added to this by verbally abusing her.
The only reason that Hannah endured this cruel and heartless behaviour for so long, was to protect Benji. Nathan had threatened that if she left him, he would take Benji away from her and that she would never see him again.
Eventually, Nathan cancelled Hannah’s mobile phone plan and internet access. She desperately needed help but was unsure where to go. Hannah was now completely isolated. Without any means to support herself and Benji, she felt extremely vulnerable and scared.
Hannah had also begun to notice that Benji was missing some of his developmental milestones. It was this that gave her the courage to secretly contact a Rabbi who had helped her to get in touch with Jewish Care.
Jewish Care’s social worker ensured that Hannah and Benji’s immediate needs were met. Their safety was of paramount importance. Hannah was provided with emergency financial support, delivery of food vouchers and nappies for Benji. This was delivered when Nathan wasn’t home. The social worker also organised a mobile phone plan for Hannah so that she could be contacted on a daily basis.
Over the next few weeks, Jewish Care worked hard to find long-term solutions for Hannah and helped her to organise an intervention order against Nathan. Jewish Care helped Hannah and Benji to move safely into Jewish Care’s transitional housing and helped her to obtain a Gett**.
Hannah was assisted to find childcare for Benji which enabled her to go back to her studies which she never thought would be possible. A part-time job was secured for Hannah through Jewish Care’s Employment and Education Centre.
Benji has since been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder which explains why he was not meeting his developmental milestones. Hannah is now also being assisted to access Jewish Care’s Disability Respite Service.
“Jewish Care took my case very personally,” Hannah said. “The social worker who helped me on so many levels was like an angel. Without Jewish Care, I don’t know what would’ve happened to us.”
There are so many other people like Hannah in our community who need support, whether for housing, financial aid, financial counselling, disability, employment or any other vital services provided by Jewish Care. The need in our community is ongoing.
Like Hannah, there are many people who still needyour help. As a community, we must stand together to help each other, which is why I am asking you to please give generously at this special time of year.
Wishing you a Shana Tova. May we all be blessed with a happy and sweet year!
*Real names and images changed to protect client privacy. **Gett (Hebrew) - A jewish divorce document.